Much has changed since the United Nations held its first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Back in 1992, the world was still reeling from the end of the Cold War, economists trumpeted deregulation and market supremacy, and historians debated the “end of history.”
World leaders had yet to carry cellphones, news traveled the globe by fax, and Japan was at the top of its game.
So what does Japan, a poster child for the economic ravages that can deplete a nation, have to bring to the table this time?
That was the question put to academics during a June 7 seminar at the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies in Tokyo. It was attended by several of Japan’s representatives to the new Rio+20 conference in Brazil.
Hiroshi Minami, deputy director-general for global issues in Japan’s Foreign Ministry, pointed out that member states forging an outcome document have yet to hammer out an accord--only 70 paragraphs among the expected 329 are ready.
“The Japanese government has committed itself to success of the conference,” Minami said. “We hope that a political commitment to the transition of a green economy will be agreed upon.”
Japan’s specific input, he added, will be on disaster risk prevention and the development of sustainable cities. The country is considering its own initiatives in these sectors, which will be displayed at the Japanese pavilion during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, as the Rio+20 is officially called, which will run from June 20 to 22.
About 3,000 side events by groups from around the world are expected.
The Japanese emphasis on those issues seems logical enough, given the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year. Having had to deal with natural and man-made disasters, Japan practically has a mandate to put into effect alternate energy sources and sustainable urban models.
Yet on June 8, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced that the government will restart two idle reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture to prevent personal and economic damage from a possible 15-percent energy shortage.
One interlocutor pointed out at the June 7 seminar that China is the East Asian nation generally considered the leader in implementing alternative energy sources and sustainable urbanization, at least for newly built cities.
In actuality, according to Atsushi Suginaka, director of the Global Environment Division of the Foreign Ministry, many projects in China are based on, or done with the cooperation of, companies in Japan.
“There’s a big discussion between groups representing developed countries and developing countries,” Suginaka said. “Developed countries, including Japan, insist on a common undertaking to the green economy. But developing countries are quite cautious because the effort requires additional costs.”
Developing countries are looking for other options because they see the green economy as a condition to development.
“Japan would like to show leadership in the sector where it has experience and advantages,” said Suginaka, referring to Japan’s sharing of its energy technology with developing countries, as well as lessons learned from the reconstruction of the Tohoku area devastated by the tsunami.
But will it take Japan 20 years to show its leadership in these areas?
The host nation of Brazil gives an example of what can be achieved during such a time-frame.
Two decades ago, Brazil was still ranked among developing countries. Yet as it now drives toward a prosperous future, it satisfies nearly 90 percent of its energy needs from hydroelectric facilities, according to Marcos Bezerra Abbot Galvao, Brazil’s ambassador to Japan.
- « Prev
- Next »